University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

AR State Board Meeting Recap: Charter School Hearings Part I: The Unfortunate

In The View from the OEP on November 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm

On Thursday November 1st, the Arkansas State Board of Education held their monthly meeting. This particular meeting garnered a lot of attention as it was the annual hearing of open enrollment charter school applicants. This year, there were six open enrollment charter schools before the board presenting a case to open their new, public charter school of choice. We gave a brief synopsis of each of these charter schools in a previous blog post. What we did not provide in that post, however, was the recommendation from the Charter Review Council – a 12 member board led by the commissioner of education, with members from the commissioner’s office, ADE general counsel, as well as other ADE officials –  that reviews open enrollment charter school applications and recommends their application for approval or denial by the State Board. However, the Charter Review Council is purely advisory, and has no voting power. We were able to dig up (from the 1,467 page State Board meeting agenda!!) the Charter Review Board’s recommendations for each of the six charter applicants:

  • Exalt Academy (Pine Bluff): Supported by Charter Review Council
  • KidSmart Academy: Not Supported by Charter Review Council
  • America’s Charter School: Not Supported by Charter Review Council
  • Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy Charter School: Supported by Charter Review Council
  • Premier High School of Little Rock: Supported by Charter Review Council
  • Quest Middle School of Pine Bluff: Supported by Charter Review Council

After a brief presentation on the impacts and prevention of bullying (especially cyber bullying) in our schools, the State Board began hearing from each charter school applicant. Of the six charter school applicants, two were denied approval, one was “tabled” for discussion at a later meeting, and three were approved. In this post, we present information on the FIRST THREE applicants – who were either denied approval – or whose application was ‘tabled’ to be discussed at a later meeting date. We will follow this post with a separate entry that discusses the three schools that were approved. Until then, on to the “Unfortunate”:

  • Up first was Exalt Academy, proposed to be opened in Pine Bluff, AR. The Exalt Academy would be chartered by the Exalt Charter Management Organization (CMO) which is currently managing the Little Rock Preparatory Academy in Little Rock AR. Exalt proposed to open a K-8 charter school targeting and serving a max of 540 “at-risk” students (though the school was proposing to serve only grades K-3 in its inaugural year). Although the charter school was supported by the Charter Review Council, the Pine Bluff School District opposed the charter school. After deliberating, the State Board voted down the Exalt Academy application, citing concerns with adequate means to transport students, and the potential negative impact to the neighboring Dollarway School District (a district with just over 1,400 students). Here is how the board voted:
    • Jim Cooper (Chair): Did not vote
    • Brenda Gullet: No
    • Jay Barth: No
    • Sam Ledbetter: Yes
    • Alice Mahony: No
    • Toyce Newton: No
    • Mireya Reith: No
    • Vicky Saviers: Yes

  • The second applicant to come before the Board was KidSmart Academy. KidSmart Academy would be chartered by the KidSmart CMO and proposed a school to open in Little Rock serving 500 students in grades K-3. The KidSmart Academy proposed to focus on bilingual education, literacy, science, mathematics and technology. KidSmart Academy was not supported by the Charter Review Council and also had opposition from the Little Rock School District (LRSD). LRSD attorney Chris Heller argued that charter schools in the city violate the 1988 settlement agreement that governs the desegregation efforts in the district (in the past years, the OEP published two reports examining the the racial breakdowns of the charter schools and of the LRSD and of the surrounding county schools. Read the first report here and then follow up with the updated second report). Heller also said that there were inconsistencies in the charter school’s proposed budget which would leave the school with a meager $91.00 at the end of the school year. Despite the efforts, and a heated exchanged between KidSmart Program Coordinator Terrilyn Pettus and Heller – where she suggested that Mr. Heller was ‘out of touch with the needs of Little Rock students’ – the State Board denied the application citing concerns with the school’s proposed curriculum and budget. Here is how the board voted:
    • Unanimous: All board members voted No.
  • The third applicant of the day was America’s Charter School– presented by former Lincoln School District Superintendent Frank Holman – a proposed high school in Lincoln AR serving 500 students in grades 8-12 under four pillars stated in the application:
    • Pillar 1: High Tech using one-to one-computers, digital resources, and the latest technology delivery
    • Pillar 2: Teacher Advancement Program – all teachers will use the latest best practices portal and research of the TAP program with curriculum, instruction, assessments, and accountability for performance based initiatives (TAP portal)
    • Pillar 3: New Tech Model of Project Based Learning (PBL) and collaborative 21st Century tools for learning using the ECHO system with numerous rubrics and projects in the library
    • Pillar 4: College and Career readiness curriculum to prepare students to be successful for an Associate Degree of Career Technical Education experiences or industry certification
  • After the case was presented, the State Board, citing incomplete information, voted to “table” the charter school’s application until either the December or January meeting.

At the halfway point (3 out of 6 charter applicant hearings) the State Board had not approved any of the charter school applications. This would change during the afternoon. To read about the three schools that were approved, click here to read our “Charter School Hearings Part II” blog post.

%d bloggers like this: